Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cathy's being "terminated"

Alrighty then. So, Cathy's being "terminated" instead of "fired." Originally, they were going to fire her, but human resources changed that to a termination instead. I can't say any more at this time, but her employer has agreed to a severence package and will be drawing it up. Until then, Cathy will just keep performing her job function.

What is unclear at this point is how the medical coverage will work. God is gracious: the Hepatitis C is completely over now. Cathy still has MRI's scheduled this month with Kaiser, so we'll have to see how medical works after her termination. My employer's carrier will pick us up without problems, but I wonder about the transition.

Since she is being terminated instead of fired, Cathy will receive unemployment benefits. That, along with my new (amount unknown) stipend from church should allow us to make the necessary changes to weather the shortfall in our income.

We have drawn great comfort in the ways that God has prepared us this past week. The sermon on Sunday was on no worrying about tomorrow. I had an insight on Monday that was related as well. Cathy had a prayer time Monday night which caused her to tell God that she is ready for whatever change He has in store for us. Then this happened.

The Bible, especially the Hebrew sections, tells us repeatedly to remember what God has done for us. Looking back over our ten years of marriage, God has seens us through many things, and has blessed us with many blessings. Remembering God's faithfulness gives us great confidence that this too shall pass. We will look back one day and remember this as a time when God showed us His faithfulness once again.

Verses which are particularly comforting include "do not worry about tomorrow" and "if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God." We don't know exactly what we're going to do next, except to look at our lifestyle and make some changes. At this point, we don't know when Cathy's last day is to be. Cathy had originally gone back to the office to pack her stuff, but was then told, "we didn't mean today." That seems odd to me, but hey, whatever happens next, Cathy will do her best and be a good example.

Cathy's been fired

First, thanks be to God, who is gracious and hears our prayers. He's always been good, and today is no different. Today's trial does not change that.

Second, my wife just got fired. It came as a shock to us both. At this point, I am most concerned with the health coverage for my wife's follow-up exams. Well, there's income, too...

Anyway, we have a new prayer request. I'll update as we go...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cathy's Going to Live!

Well, we've got official confirmation of God's goodness:
Cathy is complete Hepatitis-C-free!
Thanks for all the prayer's and supportive comments over the past year or so. God is good!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Look, ma! A custom domain!

You may already be aware of the Google Blogger custom domain option. It's been ready for a month now. I used to consider publishing to FTP, but I like the new approach (using a CNAME record). The direction for switching to a custom domain are easy enough to follow.

I use mainly due to price. With just a parked domain, I am able to host my Blogger blog and I am using Google Apps for email, too. All that with a parked domain, so there's no monthly fee.

My church just started a blog using Blogger, but the domain name is akin to "," and the "look and feel" does not match our church. I want to convince my pastor to integrate it into our main site, so I figured I would demonstrate the result on my own blog. It was quick and painless, taking less than 30 minutes to execute.

There is a downside: you cannot publish to a subfolder. In other words, you can do "" or "" but not "". That's not a problem for me, and my intention is to point the blog to "" anyway.

Anyway, hope you like the change... it's kinda here to stay. And in case you are wondering, all pages that pointed to will automatically redirect here, and all previous posts will automatically get to the right location, too. Also, remains mine; if I want to go back to that Blog*Spot address, it is still retained by me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Warning: Long Whining Post

Warning: long whining post.

Yesterday was Chinese New Year's Eve. We went to a 99 Ranch Market (an Asian American supermarket) to pick up a few items yesterday. New Year was getting close, and I think it triggered some cravings for traditional foods. Anyway, we were in line, and I knew that New Year's Day was close, so I asked a woman when Chinese New Year was this year. She says to me, "除夕是今天" (which means "New Year's Eve is today." So I made plans to call my mother for the traditional exchange of greetings.

Normally, Chinese New Year is the biggest event of the year, and all the family gathers together. The celebration of the New Year holiday season lasts 15 days. I suppose it is similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas for Americans in that way. Some Chinese even pick out a plum tree. Anyway...

I haven't received a letter from home in more than five(?) years now. When my dad needs to contact me, he calls (which is why my cell phone number will not change). My mother may have stopped writing to punish me; I am not sure, although she told me exactly that one time. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, my mother wants me to write more often. I quit calling because my mom tends to tell me what a disappointment I've been and how I need to be a better son to her. We just don't know each other, as I've explained previously. So, I don't call home often. With no letters back, I don't write often, either, although I have good reasons to change that.

My sister in law calls regularly. She encouraged me to reach out to my parents with regular letters, and I agreed that was a good idea. This last letter, I asked Cathy to write a little note; Cathy didn't think my mother cared to hear from her, but she wrote anyway. Well, my sister in law emailed me and told me how happy my parents were to receive that note, and how they were looking forward to my planned summer visit to Taiwan. With all that in my subconscious, I called home.

It took me a long time to get through on the phone. I use a phone card to save money, and I tried off-and-on for almost 90 minutes to get a connection. Sometimes, the phone would ring once, pick up, and hang up. Sometimes I would wait 30 seconds and hear "all circuits are busy." I'm sure hundreds of thousands of Chinese were also trying to call Asia, so getting through was more difficult than normal. Either way, I finally got through and was able to greet my mother with both the wish for prosperity as well as the simple "Happy New Year."

I was expecting neutral and pleasant small talk. That ended after 10 or 15 seconds, and my mother started telling me again (in Chinese) what a disappointment I've been. "You're less familiar to me than a stranger," she said. "Everyone else can talk about their wonderful sons who moved to America, but I'm afraid to open my mouth," she said. "Are you even my son, or were you born from a rock?" she asked.

I tried to interject, to apologize, but she just got louder. I tried to tell her that I am just trying to... Well, I guess I don't know what I was trying to do. I just wanted to call my mother and wish her a Happy New Year. I'm not sure what I said next, but I yelled it. It was something like I didn't call to be yelled at. I told her I had to try a long time just to get through, and I didn't call to give her a chance to hurt me. Who does that? I told her I just wanted to wish her a Happy New Year, and that I was going to hang up. She told my dad that her son didn't want to talk to her, so my dad and I spoke for a bit. We talked a little, and I hung up.

I called back later (it didn't take as long to get through) and apologized to my mother for yelling at her. She told me some more things I was doing wrong as her son (nothing I can understand, unfortunately), and I just absorbed it.

My father and I spoke for a bit, too. He advised me not to plan on visiting anytime soon (he said it would be a waste of time, whatever that means). We also talked about providing for my mother, since he may not live for too many more years. *sigh*

Anyway, I feel kinda like my mother manipulated my sister in law. She seems to want me to figure out how to be a good son but won't tell me how. She wants me to be the son she wanted to rear (but didn't). I cannot become a better Chinese son, because I'm only "so" Chinese. I'm much more American than she realizes. Cathy is trying to help me decipher the clues my mother gives me... there must be a way to understand the "I'm a bad son" messages so I can determine how to be a good son to her.

I could use some prayer on that front...

恭喜發財 - Happy Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year. The traditional Chinese greeting is Gōngxǐ fācái (恭喜發財), which sounds like Gung-Shee-Fah-Tsai. It means "congratulations, may you become rich."

Cathy and I were married on a Lunar New Year, so we tend to celebrate whichever anniversary is more convenient, although I believe we are biased toward the Gregorian calendar. I think we'll go out for Chinese food today...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Update since our Anniversary

God is good to us. Let's see... what are some things I have not shared recently?

On Feb 8th, the day after our 10th anniversary, I dropped off Boaz (our new Russian Blue kitty) to have him neutered, and I dropped off Oliver for a minor surgery to correct what appeared to be a hernia. Boaz came home that night oblivious to the fact that he no longer had those cute little balls between his legs; he was as playful and active as if he had never left the house. Oliver, on the other hand, was pretty drugged up. It turns out the little bump we thought was a hernia was a non-cancerous growth. He pulls hard on that leash, and sometimes Oliver charges off and gets caught short by the leash, so I thought he had hurt himself that way. Well, it was a fatty growth of some sort, about the size of a grapefruit! It's been a week, and Oliver is back to his happy, yappy self.

On Saturday, February 10th, Cathy confessed to me that she felt awkward about the new ring. Apparently, people thought she was engaged instead of married. The new ring has no "wedding band" and Robbin's Brothers is a engagement ring store, so I suppose that makes sense. We went down and I picked out a thin, diamond eternity band for her that didn't steal attention away from her ring.

We got out of church Sunday and Cathy felt that we were spending too much on the ring, so she convinced me to go back to Robbin's Brothers to get something less expensive. We traded the eternity band in for a smaller wedding band, and we ordered the same ring in Palladium instead of Platinum. That saved a sizable sum and covered the difference in purchasing the new wedding band. So, Cathy will have the same center stone mounted in a different ring eight weeks from now.

We had a discussion about rings one night. Cathy wanted to know if I wanted another ring; I do not. To me, the very material that comprises the ring is what is, to me, the symbol of our love. For Cathy, if every component of the ring was gradually damaged and replaced, so that seven years later the entire ring was composed of material not present in the original ring, it is the same symbol to her. For me, the material and the symbol are related. For Cathy, the form of the symbol does not matter much. We compromised on the ring changes by keeping the center stone. I only hope the channel diamonds are as good as what Cathy has now.

The day before Valentine's Day, Cathy took the day off to get some lab tests done. She's probably taken 10 tests in the last month. The test taken on Tuesday the Thirteenth includes her final Hepatitis C test; Kaiser has to cultivate the RNA so we will get the results in two weeks. (Finally!)

The day Valentine's Day was uneventful, although I did take Cathy out to dinner.

Time is a commodity

Last night, I realized something. My life is crazy; I don't have time to get to know people. Is my hectic life glorifying God? No wonder we're told to number our days, to make the most of it. The days certainly seem "evil" to me...
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I average 45 hours at work (plus lunches, plus commuting). I spend approximately 12 hours weekly in classes (plus commuting). I spend approximately 6 hours weekly in service at church. I spend about 3 hours nightly with Cathy, although part of that is meal time, part of which is us in the same room as I study. I spend about 1.5 hours daily getting ready for the day or getting ready for bed.
  • 7 x 24 = 168. That's one week.
  • Minus work (45) and lunch (4) is 119. Minus driving is 114.
  • Minus classes (12) is 102. Minus driving is 100.
  • Minus church service is 94. Minus church is 92.
  • Minus dinner is 85. I get about 6~7 hours nightly, so minus sleep is 40.
  • Minus grooming/bed I should have about 29 hours.
I should have 29 hours to study, spend time with Cathy, and live. That's about four hours a day. I don't feel like I have that many hours daily. Maybe I'm missing some stuff (like blogging).

I spent a hour this morning responding to emails, but mainly to friends. I spent 30 minutes thinking and writing this. I have 3 hours left today. *sigh* I was planning on writing home today, and my blogging is the main material for my letters, since I cannot keep track of my days. Now I see why.

I understand I am preparing. But, I think I would rather be "ready and able," instead of "willing and preparing." Well, gotta get back to it...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Recipe: Cheddar Pepper Muffins

Cheddar Pepper Muffins

These are especially light, and when eaten hot, the cheese inside the muffin is stringy.

Preparation time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 25 minutes.
Makes 12 servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Cooking Directions:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Generously grease 12 (2½-inch) muffin cups.

Step 2: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, pepper and salt. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and egg until blended. Stir the contents of the small bowl into the flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in ¾ cup of the cheese.

Step 3: Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and serve warm.

Nutritional Information for One Serving: who knows?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Our Anniversary Dinner

Cathy had heard about the Summit House Restaurant a long time ago. I think she first mentioned it when we were newlyweds living in Fullerton; we had visited the E.V. Free Church in Fullerton and Cathy pointed it out as we drove past the restaurant. Recently, some of her friends at work reinforced her desire to eat there by raving about the food and experience.

They take reservations. I had Cathy convinced that I was unable to get a reservation for our anniversary (ostenstively due to the restaurant's popularity). I told her I found an alternative in close proximity to Summit House called "Charlie's" (I even made a fake map on Google). I printed out the real menu from the web site to make sure Cathy could eat there without worrying about her allergies. Well, she believed me.

So, last night we got ready for dinner, got dressed up, and headed out for "Charlie's" in Fullerton. I explained that it was in the same area, gave her the map, and had Cathy direct me toward "Charlie's" by following the directions. If you look at this map link, that green arrow is at the top of a hill in the road, so I pulled in as though I had turned too early for "Charlie's." Cathy was helpfully pointing out that I could legally merge with the main road when I turned into the ramp for Summit House. That's when she realized I had misled her. Cathy likes surprises, and she was pleasantly surprised!

The restaurant has valet parking, and so it felt like we arrived in style. I had previously stated during my reservation (and confirmation) that we would be dining on our anniversary. We were seated indoors in a small dining room overlooking the patio. I had planned to give Cathy her ring after dinner and before dessert, but we exchanged gifts after the appetizers instead. That actually worked out very well.

I do not have adequate words to describe the moment, but it was very good. I felt very blessed, and Cathy... (sorry, I paused here for a long while writing this) ... Cathy makes everything beautiful. It made me cry. She was all smiles, the way she looks when everything is right with the world, and she is joyful. The ring looks good on her. I asked her, and in Cathy's own words, she was giddy and happy.

Dinner was excellent. It isn't just the atmosphere, but also the food. You know how, when you are hungry, things taste better, but when you're full things taste OK? I was getting pretty full, but dinner never stopped tasting great! Even dessert was excellent.

We spent two-and-a-half hours there, just enjoying each other. God has been very good to us. We came home and found a gift basket from Cathy's mom, with a note indicating she would be home after midnight. :-)

Cathy spent a good portion of time today showing off her ring, like she did when we got engaged. Next time you see her, she's going to want to show it to you!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ten Years of Marriage!

Today's our 10th anniversary!

Anyway, I saw this comic at Moderately Confused today (of all days); it seems apropos. I'll be bound by (what I consider) a sizable amount of debt, but I'm anticipating the look on Cathy's face for tonight and months to come.

Seriously, though... I picked up the ring yesterday and actually had the jeweler show me the GIA laser inscription before I left (you can only see it at 30x magnification).

Cathy will be very please, I think, with how the evening progresses. Don't tell (and she's gone home by now, I think, so she won't read this), but I am taking her to a really fancy restaurant in Fullerton. I had to make reservations a month in advanced, and I have her convinced that we didn't get a table. :-)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sh'ma Kolenu

I heard this song, "Sh'ma Kolenu" during class and it really struck a cord in me. You can hear a clip of it here from the web site of this Messianic Jewish congregation.

The Hebrew part of the clip goes (this is NOT properly transliterated)
Hear  our voice, our God!
Shema kolenu,    elohenu!
Show mercy and tender-compassion upon us.
Hus        ve- rahem             alenu.
I had that song stuck in my head all weekend long; I found it very beautiful.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Disabling Vista UAC Prompts

Vista's new User Account Control (UAC) is a new security component in Windows. If you've used Vista at all, you know that it feels like Windows Vista nags you about launching every single program. Here's a simple explanation: Microsoft wants to protect your from evil software, so it makes you think twice when you do something Microsoft doesn't recognize; it does so by asking "are you sure?" when you do something like install software or launch a program that is not registered with Microsoft (e.g. Firefox). For a detailed explanation, see this Microsoft Technet article.

Anyway, these prompts can get annoying, almost like nagging. I didn't like them in the beta, I don't like them now. I ran Vista with the UAC prompts for a week, and I disabled them today with the secpol.msc tool (see this URL to disable UAC it yourself).

That's why I found this new Apple "get a Mac" ad so funny... (click to watch)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vista editions and disaster recovery

There may be too many editions of Vista (as I explained previously).

People have been lampooning Microsoft's number of editions, some more seriously, some less so, but the point is well taken: it is just too confusing.

Given the choice, here's what I recommend: get Vista Business or Vista Ultimate. The Home editions do not include built-in hard disk imaging, which is a great backup mechanism. You should routinely make backups, but imaging is fantastic.

Are you familiar with those "system restore" discs? The ones that you can use to wipe out your computer and make the hard disk like you just took the computer out of the box? That's a disk image.

So, get your computer set up the way you like it (backup and remove your documents), then make a disk image. If you ever have problems, restore the image and then restore you documents. It will probably only take you one hour.

The only edition which does not support Aero and the Flip-3D eye candy is Vista Home Basic. Vista Home Premium addes Aero and Media Center (which you don't need if you Tivo). Vista Business adds imaging but removes Media Center. Vista Ultimate has all of the above, plus BitLocker Drive Encryption (for the enterprise user, or the hyper-paranoid).

If you participated in the PowerTogether promotion, you're getting Vista Business (way cool). That's probably what I would recommend for almost everybody.

Cool Hebrew Names

I have been studying Hebrew for only five months, but I do notes some things I think are "cool" on occasion. One of these things is people's names.

For example, I have a friend Micah (מִיכָה); his name means "who is like YHWH?" Another friend is named Derek, and his name means "way, road, path" as in Psalm 1:1.

My professor plays songs in Hebrew before class, and I've got one stuck in my head. *sigh*

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Vista on my laptop (and driver tips)

So, I installed Windows Vista Ultimate. When I went to the Microsoft's New Day Launch Tour 2007 event in LA and got my copy of Office 2007.

Heres' a hot tip: You are not forced to go to the track you sign up for at the New Day event. If you sign up as a developer, you can still attend the Technology Decision Maker (TDM) track, which is shorter. So if there are any openings left, take them.

Another tip: About 2:30 PM, the TDM track ends, and you can finish your survey and pick up your swag bag.

Final New Day tip: Create a disposable email address to sign up with. Be sure to hit all the booths and have your badge scanned. If you can, preprint some business cards, too, with your disposable email address to enter the drawings. Most booths were having drawings for Microsoft Zune players.

Anyway, the New Day attendee bag includes a "pre-release" version of Vista Ultimate with a valid key. That's what I am running now. I think it is the new equivalent of "not for resale" (NFR). The swag bag includes the Office 2007 license. This gift is actually just the product key; you'll download the install file later, much like the "Power Together" promotion worked (those are beginning to arrive, by the way).

Installing Vista: Before you install Vista, run the Microsoft Upgrade Advisor. If you have a 3.0 or better you should be just fine. Vista will load in 40 minutes (at least it did on mine). I have a Toshiba Satellite M105-S322 and almost everything just worked, except for my fingerprint reader and SD card slot.

Finding Drivers: Finding drivers for my laptop was not easy. Toshiba's support site did not list any drivers for my laptop, and I had a few devices not working (biometrics, SD slot, touchpad scroll). If you are going to install Vista, here's a few suggestions:
  • Back everything up (duh).
  • Before installing Vista, print our your Device Manager screen from System Properties in Control Panel.
  • Visit your computer/laptop manufacturer's web site and look for drivers for Vista. If they don't exist, you can either use the XP drivers (not ideal, but works) or hunt for drivers on similar models.
  • Download any BIOS updates for your computer/laptop before installing Vista.
So far, the biggest problem I've read about in forums is "where's the Vista driver for XYZ?" I have a Toshiba Satellite, so I visited Toshiba's site looking for Vista drivers on other Toshiba laptops. Since the same components get reused in other machines, Vista drivers for those machines work for my laptop, too. That's how I found my SD flash reader drivers, fingerprint reader drivers, and my ALP touchpad drivers.

Experience with Vista: I am pretty jaded. After about 30 minutes of using Vista, the Flip 3D thing lost it's novelty. I like the gadget bar, but that was previously available as a 3rd party add-on.

Here's what I do like, though... performance did not suffer (much). The Start Menu integrated search is pretty handy. And, I must admit, everything is prettier. That's about it.

Bottom Line: If you have XP, there's no compelling reason to purchase an upgrade, unless you use a tablet PC. However, Vista is nice, with some networking enhancements. Vista is probably what XP should have been. Get it if it is cheap or free, but I wouldn't rush out to spend money on it just for the eye candy.